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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 17 February, 2020

Noonan and Howlin banter about 'social democrat' Leo and 'much improved' health service

The two finance ministers were in top form today.

Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan earlier today
Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan earlier today
Image: Mark Stedman

MICHAEL NOONAN AND Brendan Howlin have got on famously as the two ministers responsible for the nation’s purse strings over the past five years.

Some commentators have even taken to labelling them the ‘Morecambe and Wise‘ of Irish politics.

The double-act were out again today to announce the end of year exchequer figures which show the State took over €3 billion more than expected in 2015.

As they come to the end of their term, the Finance Minister said his “good” working and personal relationship with Howlin had contributed to recovering economy.

For his part, the Public Expenditure Minister said his relationship with Noonan is “hugely satisfactory”.

Year End 2015 Exchequer 10 Noonan and Howlin prior to today's press conference at the Department of Finance Source: Mark Stedman/

If further evidence of this was needed then the banter before and after today’s event provided it. Fortunately (or unfortunately perhaps for the ministers) the media’s microphones picked it up.

As they took their seats for the press conference, Howlin noted that the pair were on opposite sides to where they usually sit, telling Noonan:

I think we’ve switched sides, have we?

To which Noonan quipped:

They’ll say I’m moving to the left…

There was a hearty laugh from Howlin who joked about Labour having turned Health Minister Leo Varadkar, one of Fine Gael’s more right-leaning members, over to his side:

I’ve already said we’ve made Leo a social democrat.

Year End 2015 Exchequer 18 Source: Mark Stedman

They weren’t finished there.

At the end of the lengthy press conference, Howlin noted it was the first one where he hadn’t been asked about the perennially problematic supplementary budget for the health service.

“That’s the first one I wasn’t asked about health,” said the minister with a chuckle. Noonan responded:

There you go…. Leo said yesterday it was much improved.

There was a hearty laugh from Howlin, which some might question given the trolley crisis in Irish hospitals.

But as the Labour minister began a sentence both he and Noonan seemed to realise the microphones were still recording.

So they duly got up from their seats to pose for pictures.

Year End 2015 Exchequer 9 Source: Mark Stedman

Probably a smart move.

Read: Michael Noonan confirms he had pneumonia over Christmas

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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